Make mine a double first

A whistleblower’s account of how an institution manipulated graduate employment statistics made for sobering reading, but it also drove the Twitterati to drink-related puns

March 26, 2015

Our anonymous article by a former university employee claiming that the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey had been used to make an institution look good provoked a big reaction online.

The article detailed allegations of how the process was manipulated, with information about what graduates had gone on to do collected in such a way as to make the university look as good as possible at getting students into “graduate level” jobs.

“When I started in the post, it was said that the DLHE would make me hard of hearing,” our whistleblower wrote. “In no time at all, colleagues laughed, I’d be registering ‘barrister’ not ‘barista’.”

“Clearly the DLHE needs a massive overhaul,” tweeted Kate Little (@katelittle), who works in higher education pedagogy. “Not surprised that unis are gaming the system – incentives are there.”

“We really shouldn’t be surprised by this,” said Cambridge Education Group marketing director Andrea Grassby (@AGrassby) “but maybe ashamed of how we ‘game’ our rankings and stats.” Peter Jones (@pgwjones_dr), head of the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University, called the revelations “shocking reading” and wondered if they were the “product of metric driven society”. Pasi Ahonen (@PasiAhonen), lecturer in management at an unnamed university, pointed to “fallout from Management-By-Numbers”.

As serious as the article’s allegations were, its headline (“Bar work? You must be a barrister!”) – and especially an accompanying image of the Higher Education Statistics Agency logo on a beer pump – gave our Twitter followers (@timeshighered) an excuse to have a little fun. The #HEdrinks hashtag was born, and followers were asked to suggest academia-inspired beverages.

“Bucks-New-Uni fizz?”, mused Dan (@akaPyro), “or for Londoners, maybe a Goldsmithschlager, a Bloody Queen Mary or a London Metropolitan?” “I’d go for a pint of Harper Adnams myself,” said John Morgan (@JMorganTHE), Times Higher Education’s deputy news editor; Will Hoyles (@WillHoyles) of Queen (Bloody) Mary University of London tried “MITea” and a pint of “Bishop’s Finger Grosseteste”.

“I’m trying for a Gin and Polytonic joke but it’s not really working,” conceded self-declared “faceless bureaucrat” Meg Evans (@CaptainMeg), while Higher Education Academy board director Johnny Rich (@JohnnySRich) suggested that Janet Beer, new vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, would be a good person to ask for #HEdrinks suggestions. “In the Ivy League, they enjoy a pint of Real Yale,” revealed Marc Scully (@marcdonnchadh), while Graham (@grayhamp), an “academic”, observed that “2012 Bitter” is probably drunk by “all students on higher fees”.

But our favourite came from Anna Notaro (@notanna1), senior lecturer in contemporary media theory at the University of Dundee. When William Mohieddeen (@Mocko500), former president of the University of Abertay Dundee Students’ Association, suggested “Professor Ferdinand von Pron-drinks-ski” – a play on the name of Robert Gordon University’s vice-chancellor, Ferdinand Von Prondzynski (@vonprond), Dr Notaro went one step further.

“Surely you mean Ferdinand von Pron-drinks-whiskey,” she tweeted. Bravo – but surely he must drink “Robert Gordon’s gin”, as suggested by former professor of information science Charles Oppenheim (@CharlesOppenh)?

Chris Parr

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